Georgia 5A Area 1 Season Preview
Team Race: The team race in Area 1 looks to be a three-team battle. Starr's Mill and Carver both return nine starters, including two state qualifiers each. Hardaway returns ten starters including one state qualifier and one state placer. Breaking it down further, Starr's Mill comes in as the more accomplished team from a year ago, however, Carver is absolutely loaded with seniors, and Hardaway returns all of its proven talent from a year ago. In a pre-season nod, Hardaway looks to be the benefactor of a successful program for this region. Don’t sleep on LaGrange and Columbus; either team could surprise the field.
Contenders: Hardaway's Emilio Evans-Pagan (6th at 160) is the only returning state placer from a year ago, and looks to be Area 1's best chance at a state title. One of those hunting the podium could end up on the top step as well, but they would need to put together a phenomenal season.
Hunting the Podium: Four teams return two state qualifiers who are looking to add to their win totals at the state championships from a year ago and make their way to the podium after the conclusion of the state finals. Those teams and their respective wrestlers include Carver's Brooks Alfred (220) and Javon Walker (145), Starr's Mill's Michael Runyan (145) and Jake Schaper (160), McIntosh's Aaron Brewer (138) and William Jewell (120), and Columbus, who has the youngest duo of returning state qualifiers in Joshua McAlister (132) and William NanaFabu (285). LaGrange returns one state qualifier from a year ago in Emanuel Mann (285). In addition to the region's sole state placer, Hardaway also returns 2015 state qualifier Michael Watson (138). All ten will make a push for a spot on the podium in 2016.
Under the Radar: Keep an eye on Sh’Kale Barnes and Xavier Lewis of Hardaway, Taylor Reese and Matt Coker of Harris County, De’Erious Sands and Guy Wegienka of LaGrange, Hunter Fox of McIntosh, Frank Anello, Christian Johnson, and Matt Watford of Northgate, Tripp Thames of Northside Columbus, Carl Asberry of Shaw, and Nick Martin of Starr’s Mill.
NOTE: Fred Jones (2nd, 113, Sr.) - meaning 2nd last season at the Traditional State Tournament at 113 lbs. Is a Senior in 2015-2016.